Growing in a niche: coating inspection Growing in a niche: coating inspection Growing in a niche: coating inspection


Growing in a niche: coating inspection

January 10th '23

General dexterity, an eye for detail, the ability to work in a planned and consistent manner – these are some of the 'must haves' in the world of coating inspection. Kenny Meuris, Dries Verhoeven and Matthew Abittan each have their skills in these areas. They have been our internal Quality Control Inspectors (QC) for a year now.

How did they roll into this job? Through specialised training as a QC Surface Treatment Inspector. A course we offer internally at Smulders. A mix of theory and practice by in-house, certified experts complemented by know-how from external professionals.

Passion & potential

Kenny: “I started the training immediately after my application and from day 1 I was sure... this is my dream job. Not ordinary, but special. We do quality control on treated pieces through measurement, analysis and reporting and that starts with surface treatment. In my case, that currently means working at 40-50 m height to check offshore structures before they go out to sea. It is a challenge that gives me a lot of energy. I work far from home, but I have the right people around me to be able to do this.”

Matthew brought previous quality control experience into Smulders in 2021, and Dries first explored the commercial engineering and estimation side of the company in Arendonk. Knowledge that will certainly come in handy today. While Kenny is living it up at Eiffage Métal's yard in Fos-sur-Mer for the Provence Grand Large (PGL) project, Dries and Matthew are responsible for coating inspection on the series production for Dogger Bank in Balen.

Dries: “In Balen inspections are mainly visual - layer thickness measurements after paint jobs - and we don't necessarily work on heights as the pieces are prepared on the ground. We are now building offshore platforms and, in between, bridge structures for Leverkusen. As a QC Inspector, you have a say when it comes to your workplace. If you want to go abroad, you can. Diversity and opportunities all around.”

Quality first

You can join in many different ways, but an internal pathway is necessary to master all skills and also to gain the corresponding certifications.

Matthew: “The first two months were all about theory, followed by practice and taking measurements yourself under a watchful eye. Kenny, Dries and I were initiated into Corrodere's 'Train the painter' programme together. We are now 'NACE Coating Inspector Level 1', Dries is even one level higher as he has several years of experience within the company. In any case: we will go for it together and as soon as possible we will join another round of certification. This is how we acquire more rights as QC Inspectors each time. You can absolutely say that it is an ongoing learning process. Becoming specialists in our niche and guaranteeing the best quality - that's what we do it for.”

A great deal of self-confidence

Dries: “What I really like is the confidence that is put in us. It really empowers us. The more we practise, the better we become at our job. Restrictions on paint and constructions are strict. Approving and disapproving is not easy. There may sometimes be a discussion with the contractor when something has not been done properly. In that case, we tell them how to do it better, taking into account current quality standards. A great deal of self-confidence is nice, decisiveness a great asset. We talk to the customer's quality controller and we make sure the administration of quality checks is done correctly.”

Decisiveness also applies to Kenny and Matthew. “Knowing what you are talking about and working safely is what it comes down to. It is great to be immersed in quality systems, surface treatment techniques and the sophisticated tools a QC Inspector works with. And the excellent guidance from colleagues is a great boost.”

Getting our hands dirty

One thing’s for sure: our in-house QC knowledge is gradually reaching top level, which is a valuable addition to the expertise of loyal external partners within this segment. The structures we build are not getting smaller either, and our QC Inspectors are evolving with them.

Whether this is the ultimate job for people who like to combine thinking and doing in a production environment? “For us, at least, it is. For other young talent that doesn't like to sit still, I'm sure, too. You have to be a daredevil and want to get your hands dirty every now and then. Last but not least, humour and patience are the magical mix. Just to say, a QC Inspector has a lot of professional seriousness, but is also fun”, according to these three gentlemen.